Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Max Trescott was named the 2008 National Certified Flight Instructor of the Year. He graduated from Swarthmore in 1978 with a degree in psychology and in 1979 with a degree in engineering. The Daily Gazette talked to this alum about his experiences with flying.
Photo courtesy of Max Trescott
DG: What was it like to find out that you’d been named the 2008 National Certified Flight Instructor of the year?
MT: It’s a little humbling because I realize there are 91,000 flight instructors in the country, and there are hundreds if not thousands of people who are equally well qualified. I realized that I’m really just representing all those people.
DG: How did you become interested in flying?
MT: I started taking lessons when I was 15, and I think I was always interested and intrigued by the possibility of being up there in the clouds. My mother actually took flying lessons; she never got her license, but was always encouraging my sister’s and my interest. There was great environment at home for us learning how to fly.
DG: Did you fly while you were at Swarthmore?
MT: During my college years I did most of my flying while I was at home. I did on a couple of occasions fly in the Philadelphia area, and I remember flying out of a little airport out of the Delaware-Maryland border. I took a couple of Swarthmore students with me and we flew over the college campus and took pictures. There was some event happening on the ground that day and I had brought along a radio and was talking to a student on the ground. I remember the director of security, George Fisher, at the time got on the radio and said, “You do not have permission to land here”!
DG: How did you decide to become an instructor?
MT: I actually didn’t get my C.F.I. rating until 2001. Aviation has always been part of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to teach. It seemed like a step to move myself to the next highest level, because teaching something means you really know it. It really helped me step up my game with flying, plus it’s just fun. I like to share my passion for flying with other people and it was a pretty natural extension.
DG: What is the most challenging part of being a flight instructor?
MT: There are several challenges to it. I think the most important issue is how to teach people the skills to remain safe, mostly from a judgment standpoint. As a flight instructor there is a lot of emphasis on the physical skills of flying, and we have to continually remind ourselves to talk about decision making and judgment training. 80% of all accidents are related to errors in decision-making and judgment.
DG: You also publish a monthly online newsletter about pilot safety; how did you get interested in this aspect of flying?
MT: I guess it’s always bothered me that anyone can lose their life while flying especially when needless accidents occur. The sheer humanity and the senseless loss of life is what have motivated me [about safety] throughout my flying career. What made an even bigger impression was when in 2000, there was an accident with friends who were with Flying Doctors.
DG: You’re a past president of President of Los Medicos Voladores or Flying Doctors, and flew volunteer doctors and dentists to Mexico. How did you get involved with that group?
MT: I first read about that organization when I was a teenager and it always appealed to me because my father was a doctor and I had thought about medicine. It was a great way to combine my interest in aviation while giving back to society and helping others. I joined the organization when I was in California and they asked me to be president.
DG: What do you remember most about your time at Swarthmore?
MT: I have so many fond memories of Swarthmore. For one, I really remember the beauty of the campus; it was a daily joy to walk around and enjoy it. I really loved all the time I spent with WSRN and was I was heavily involved because I had been a disc jockey at a couple of local radio stations in high school. WSRN was always a fun place to hang out. I met my wife at Swarthmore, that’s a pretty good thing I remember. One of my favorite things was attending Allen Schneider’s lectures in psychology; he really made the subject come alive; his were stand-out classes.